By Alana Olson, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor
The ketogenic (“keto”) diet is an eating plan that is very low in carbohydrates. The goal is to push the body into using stored fat as its energy source. Most cells use glucose as their preferred fuel, but in its absence, they will start to break down fat—a process called ketosis.
Without carbohydrates, these diets are high in fat and protein, which can be an issue. Some individuals end up choosing foods that are high in saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol (think meats, butter, bacon, cheese) because many other foods are restricted due to carbohydrate content. We know that this is not good for long-term health.
The keto diet was originally developed as a method of treating symptoms associated with epilepsy but is now being used, by the general public, as a means of losing weight. Though some studies have indicated that the ketogenic diet may be an effective way to lose weight and possibly improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, its effects are generally pretty short-term. It is also very restrictive and tends to be hard to maintain over an extended period of time. Cutting out food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially for individuals without sufficient knowledge of nutrition.
Following a strict ketogenic diet can also result in a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis, in which the body stores too many ketones (acids produced as a byproduct of burning fat) and the blood becomes too acidic, causing damage to the liver, kidneys, and brain.
Weight loss and good health are most successfully attained when one follows a well-balanced and realistic lifestyle that can be followed over an extended period of time. It is also important to remember that since we are all different, what works for others may not work for us and vice versa. If you are considering going on a ketogenic diet, talk to your healthcare providers about the costs and benefits of doing so based on your own individual nutritional needs.
Campos, M., MD. (2018, July 06). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089